Berrios' Free Throws Bury Green Wave
January 10, 2008
By Steve Irvine
NEW ORLEANS - A desperate situation turned into a dream on Wednesday night for UAB point guard Ed Berrios in the Blazers' Conference USA opener at Tulane.
Three Tulane defenders surrounded Berrios in front of the UAB bench with the final seconds slipping away and the Green Wave clinging to a two-point advantage. Berrios stepped back from the defenders, threw up a contested shot that came nowhere close to going in the basket - but got a reprieve when Tulane's Kevin Sims was whistled for a foul.
The foul was called with 1.6 seconds left and Berrios drained all three free throws to lift the Blazers to a hard-fought 62-61 win over the Green Wave at Fogelman Arena.
Opinion on the validity of the foul depended on which shade of green you were wearing on Wednesday night.
Most of the Fogelman Arena crowd of 1,810 loudly voiced their displeasure about the call but UAB's Robert Vaden saw it differently.
"It was definitely a foul, he came down right on him," Vaden said.
What was more important, however, was Berrios converting after the foul. the junior was in a similar situation at Kentucky and he nailed two free throws in the final seconds to finish off the scoring in the 79-76 over the Wildcats.
This time, however, he needed to go one better.
"When you get in that position to be a hero or be a downfall it's nerve-racking," said Berrios. "When you shoot big free throws you try to do the same routine you do every time at the line. But this was to win the game."
Berrios said the most important shot was the first one. When that went down he calmly nailed the next two.
"The first one went long and it went in," said UAB head coach Mike Davis. "The second one looked short and it went in. The third one looked wide and it went in."
All that was left after that was keeping Tulane from pulling off its own miracle. Tulane tried to throw a midcourt pass to David Gomez but the 6-foot-8 Gomez couldn't handle the pass because of pressure from Berrios.
Afterward, Davis focused on UAB's ability to pull out a close game on a night that Vaden didn't post big offensive numbers and was hurt by foul trouble. Vaden finished with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting and missed some key minutes in the second half with four fouls.
"We talked about being relentless competitors and we showed that tonight," Davis said. "Our effort was great throughout the game. We've got to win some games where Vaden doesn't score 25-30 points."
The list of UAB heroes was long on Wednesday night. Lawrence Kinnard had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Reggie Huffman had 11 points, six rebounds and four key points late in the game and the Blazers (11-5 overall, 1-0 C-USA) outrebounded Tulane 40-29.
Still it was far from easy.
UAB trailed just 27-24 at halftime despite a combined 3-of-16 shooting from Vaden and Kinnard. Vaden, whose only two baskets were 3-pointers, had trouble getting away from Tulane defenders - particularly Matt Wheaton - and began rushing shots. Wheaton knocked one of Vaden's six 3-point attempts into the stands and Vaden shot an air ball on another 3-point attempt.
Kinnard was unable to take up the slack on the offensive end - making just 1-of-7 shots - but UAB hung close because the Blazers had 10 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points.
The teams traded runs in the second half but Tulane looked poised to win thanks to a big 3-pointer late in the game by Alabama native Johnny Mayhane. The LeFlore High graduate nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner with 37.9 seconds left to give Tulane (10-5, 0-1) a 60-59 lead. UAB committed a turnover on its next possession and Gomez made 1-of-2 free throws with 10.2 seconds left. That gave Berrios room to win the game with his three free throws.